TSA misses enormous, loaded .40 calibre handgun in carry-on bag

A man who flew out of Houston's George Bush airport discovered a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag after landing; he'd forgotten he was carrying it and the eagle-eyed TSA screeners were too busy ogling his penis to spot the loaded gun in the nearly empty bag from which he'd dutifully removed his laptop.
"I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif said. "It's a .40 caliber gun."

Seif says it was an accident which he didn't realize until he arrived at his destination. He says he carries the glock for protection but forgot to remove it from his bag. He reported the incident as soon as he landed, shocked at the security lapse.

"There's nothing else in there. How can you miss it? You cannot miss it," Seif said.

Authorities tell ABC News the incident is not uncommon, but how often it occurs is a closely guarded government secret. Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security.

A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA's new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports.

Man boards plane at IAH with loaded gun in carry-on (via Consumerist)


  1. Not that it isn’t shocking regardless, but there seems to be a slight discrepancy between the headline and the picture chosen to illustrate this story…

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I wasn’t surprised a gun was missed, but I was surprised that a passenger would forget that he had his sniper rifle with tripod tucked away in his bag.

      Is it just me, or do other people laugh at the incompetence of the TSA, while simultaneously being terrified of the new equally-ineffective-but-more-degrading-or-painful procedures they’ll come up with to allegedly prevent this? “From now on, you have to have a TSA-approved X-ray machine strapped to your back at all times, constantly irradiating you and spitting out film like a Polaroid, so that all airport employees can check you for weapons at any and all times.”

      1. Come on now, I’d expect something more invasive…like the memory implants from “The Final Cut” with Robin Williams…

        Which of course would be remote viewable by the government without a warrant.

      2. “Is it just me, or do other people laugh at the incompetence of the TSA, while simultaneously being terrified of the new equally-ineffective-but-more-degrading-or-painful procedures they’ll come up with to allegedly prevent this?”

        You say that as if they’re somehow mutually exclusive. Of COURSE you can do both at once–whatever the new, asinine rules will end up being, they will not make the TSA any more competent.

  2. +1 to that
    a .40 cal handgun should NOT be making it onto an airplane.
    But it’s a little different than a .40 cal sniper rifle.

    1. I raise you .10 – it’s a .50BMG (I think) and would likely weigh something north of 15 lbs (absolute minimum – if it’s a Barrett -as I suspect- 30lbs). Certainly not a .40 caliber handgun.

    2. on an airplane, with limited mobility, the pistol is FAR more dangerous than a rifle of the same caliber. Think about it for half a second, spin around with a rifle in you hands.

    1. Not just the barrel, the whole slide is metal, as is the firing pin and the springs. Also the spring in the magazine, as well as the ammo is metal. The frame is mostly polymer, but it also has some metal inserts: rails for the slide to slide along and a plate with the serial number engraved on it.

    1. “Has traveling ever been safe? Nope. Will it ever be safe? Nope.”

      For most definitions of safe, travelling is very safe. I have about a 1 in 30mil chance of being blown out of the air, and I’m content with those odds.

  3. By reporting it, didn’t he open himself up to felony charges? I would be hard pressed to get the courage to report something like that.

    1. By reporting it, didn’t he open himself up to felony charges? I would be hard pressed to get the courage to report something like that.

      Exactly. Now imagine how many other poeple have made similar discoveries but didn’t report them. I could see there being easily a 100 to 1 ratio.

  4. Congratulations must be in order if the person managed to smuggle a fully loaded Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle onto a plane in a carry-on bag.

  5. The more tasks you ask someone to do the worse they’ll perform any of them. You can’t really expect a screener to x-ray the genitals, fondle the buttocks, measure the tiny bottles of liquid, open the laptops, scan the shoes AND have time to make sure that every little bag is handgun-free.

    1. Agreed. Distraction is the key, and the line has to keep moving. Successful smugglers know this, and use it to their advantage.

  6. Now that we (myself included) have fixed the internet – here’s the big one for me:

    “Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security.

    A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports.”

    And the feedback/analysis/improvement loop is *what*? There is improvement *when*? Test are fine, but if they do not lead into a process whose output is better screening they are -not to put too fine a point on it- masturbatory exercises.

  7. From a European point of view the real horror story is nothing to do with airport security. It is that citizens can walk the streets carrying a weapon like that. Some fraction of the US nation still seems to imagine themselves as cowboys in a B movie.

    1. From your European point of view I would assume only those on the government payroll should be stomping around with weaponry and a private citizen with a legal weapon is a horror story.

      From my European point of view, I don’t think the Americans have done too badly with their armed citizens.

      Honestly, the guy reported it to the authorities as soon as he noticed; this is not a bad person.

  8. I find it ironic that someone who could forget that he had a large, loaded gun in his bag is shocked that someone else might miss something.

    1. The random gun-totin’ dude isn’t the one getting *paid* to not miss guns. The TSA staff on the other hand…

    2. Yes, indeed… but there is the fact that our absent-minded passenger was simply trying to get on a plane, with god knows what occupying his mind. I seem to remember Eddie Van Halen experienced this particular flavor of brainfart at the Burbank airport once.

      TSA screener, however, missing a loaded gun in the luggage… now that’s distracted.

    3. Yeah, but this happened in Texas. Guns are as common as breath mints down there. and about as culturally normative.

  9. …person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA’s new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports

    Yes, but they have one hundred percent success at detecting and eliminating any shred of human dignity an air traveler might possess. Let’s give credit where it is due!

    “Sir, I understand you are not afraid of dying, not afraid of terrorism, not afraid of flying in airplanes, and have never harmed anyone in your life, but you apparently haven’t lost your will to resist authoritarian nonsense yet… so bend over, please”

  10. The handgun in question appears to be a Glock 27, which is one of the smallest models Glock makes. It is called a “baby” Glock for a reason; you can’t even fit your whole hand on the grip, only 2 fingers. I think your headline needs to be edited to reflect that this is in no way an “enormous” gun.

  11. What’s even more interesting is that the traveler reportedly noticed his gun was in the bag after the flight and voluntarily reported it. How many people in his shoes would have just UPS’ed the gun home to himself and written it off as a stupid mistake that could have been far, far worse?

    Also, anyone notice this incident happened LAST YEAR near Christmas time? Way to dredge up dated sensationalist stories, press. Christ, what assholes.

    1. I’m with the others asking, “why report news from last year?” or did this incident not get mentioned then?

  12. Flew out of LaGuardia today and saw no naked scanners. If these really made planes safer, why don’t they have them in New York, the one city which has been successfully targeted by terrorists?

    This show is a farce leaning towards a tragedy.

    1. The only place I’ve seen the rape scanners (Rapiscan! seriously!) is Buffalo, NY. I think they must be wary of putting them in the heavily-used airports (like LAX and LaGuardia) because of the potential delays. Kind of defeats the purpose since that’s where attackers would most likely fly out of anyway.

    2. It’s mostly because in New York we have neither the time nor the patience to deal with TSA making our lines even longer. You’ll find you don’t need your Freedom Ziplock flying out of our airports either. I think it’s assumed that we all have a little more perspective as to what “safe” means and the local authorities deal with real threats instead of screwing around with Mickey Mouse BS that nobody likes.

      Trust me, every time I fly through a tiny airport and they’re freaking out about my lack of ziplock or whatever, it takes a lot to remind them that we don’t deal with this where things actually happen.

  13. Correction, it takes a lot NOT to remind them that we don’t deal with this where things actually happen.

  14. When I flew out of Denver a few weeks ago, not one person in line in front of me chose the Xray scanners – they all chose the magnetometers. A friendly enough TSA person was stating “if you don’t want to wait in line, you can step over to the xray machine where there is NO line.” Not one person was taking up his offer. Not one. I surely didn’t.

  15. Cory, I love your writing. But I have to find fault with your headline in this instance. I viewed the article after the image was removed, so I understand that you may have been trying to be facetious. However, simply from a factual journalistic standpoint, all that the original article said about the gun was the quote:

    “I mean, this is not a small gun,” Seif said. “It’s a .40 caliber gun.”

    Now, the leap from ‘not a small gun’ to an ‘enormous’ gun is really quite unnecessary. A .40 caliber Glock is an average sized handgun. It’s no Desert Eagle .50, but it’s also not a .22 derringer. Let’s not sensationalize a story of TSA’s ineptitude with fears of random folks toting rocket launchers through the airport.

  16. I was asked to go through the backscatter scanner at O’Hare today (after waiting in line for literally over an hour because the TSA was on a “shift change” and had just 2 lanes (!) open for concourses B & C – and after they also forgot to check my ID because they rotated ID checkers who didn’t communicate with each other). I refused and was treated like dirt by a haughty TSA supervisor who radioed someone that she “had an opt-out.” After waiting 10 minutes a TSA agent thoroughly molested me as punishment. I had thought the concerns about the enhanced pat down might be exaggerated, but no longer – it is a complete fucking travesty, seriously horrific. The guy who “patted me down” belongs in jail along with everyone else involved in creating this policy. Finally after I missed my flight as a result of all this bullshit I was told by yet another rude idiot TSA agent that it was my fault for not arriving at the airport 3 hours before my flight. I am absolutely incensed about this whole situation.

  17. @Zartan = remember saying this: “How odd that I fly at least a hundred times a year and find the TSA to be uniformly efficient and professional 99% of the time. “?

    They never were, they aren’t now and never will be.

    I’m presuming you are female, we certainly get the worst of the feel-ups.

  18. This is a pretty enormous problem. It immediately brings to mind the following terrorist methodology:

    Take small but powerful weapons “accidentally” in your bag when you fly, allow them to be confiscated when discovered, but if they get through, secure them secretly inside the aircraft.

    Then get a bunch of your terrorist buddies together and all of you board the prepared aircraft, then use the concealed weapons to take over the plane.

    This just goes to show the general futility of the TSA’s activities. It is as ludicrous to assume that we have complete safety now as what we had before. It will always be possible to out-think the system. The only true safety increase would be to institute totalitarianism, which is of course fucking insane.

    Although one could argue that we’ve already succumbed to measures of totalitarianism, which is both true and very very sad.

  19. There seems to be support for this guy for reporting the missed gun… that he knowingly packed illegally. HE’s shocked TSA missed it? I’M shocked he packed it. What was he expecting, TSA would search, find it, and make him mail it home to himself (which is your only choice besides reliquishing it forever when they find something).

    How did he think the scenario of his flight was going to go, when he was packing his bags at home – it seems like he expected the gun to be found, but was surprised when he got to his gun-toting destination and realized it was a hassle free trip.

    The Van Halen comparison is bunk too – they both “forgot” they packed an item they shouldn’t even pack? I can understand “forgetting” that you packed liquids over the oz. limit or even your shaving razor… we’re talking about a gun. On a plane. Post-9/11. No way this guy gets a free pass for his stupidity.

    1. Actually, he doesn’t have to mail it home to himself, one can check a firearm on board a plane. There need to be locks and it needs to be unloaded, but you can check it. Some advise actually traveling with a checked gun: it gets locked and secured more than most luggage and there’s a much smaller chance they’re going to lose that bag in the system.

    2. He didn’t knowingly pack the gun illegally. He carries the gun for protection and probably carries it all the time. He simply failed to remove it from the laptop case where it rides all the time.

      This happens to people who carry. It just goes with the territory. You hope that when you have your “Oh, shit!” moment, when you take your gun somewhere you’re not supposed to, it’s in a fairly innocuous situation and you get off with a warning or you go undiscovered.

      Bush airport used to be a perfect place to have your eye-opener. Back before Texas issued concealed carry licenses, there was an exception to the law that said you could carry a concealed weapon while traveling. “Traveling” was not defined in the law (leading to some interesting local interpretations) but if you’re getting on a plane, nobody will say you’re not traveling.

      Therefore, back in the day, if you walked through the metal detectors (which were *before* federally-controlled space), you’d get caught but you would not yet be breaking any law. You’d get referred to a local police officer and be escorted out to take your gun back home (or check it, but most people would just panic and leave).

      There’s nothing sinister going on here. The guy just forgot the gun was in his bag. No big deal.

  20. I have several friends who, at different occasions, forgot they were carrying knives and got on board without anyone noticing.

    I also remember a flight when the man sitting behind me said to his neighbor: “Wow! They let me on board with this!” and he exhibited a swiss army knife. The neighbor didn’t stop talking to him for the rest of the flight. He was trying to know who the man was, why he was flying, etc. He seemed genuinely scared that the man would use his little knife to hijack the plane. I believe the man noticed it and played a bit with his neighbor’s nerves. That was quite entertaining.

  21. Remember, this is in Texas, where there are metal detectors in the Capitol Building for people who do NOT have concealed handgun carry permits.

  22. Who cares about guns? I think the important thing here is that no unchecked penises can get on planes today.

  23. This is fucking hilarious. I guess the century that inspired Huxley, Orwell and Kafka was just the trailer for the feature-length blockbuster of insanity that we’re about to live through.

  24. I want this full-employment program too. Why can’t it be a closely-guarded secret whenever I completely fail to perform my duties at work? It would have been awesome if, back when I installed batteries in cars for a living, people weren’t allowed to be informed if I didn’t bother connecting the terminals, or even removing the old battery. I’d just be so motivated to do my job right with no accountability if I didn’t.

  25. Why is last years news news all over again?

    “Nearing the height of last year’s Christmas travel season, TSA screeners at Bush Intercontinental Airport somehow missed a loaded pistol, one that was tucked away inside a carry-on computer bag.”

  26. This seems like the DRM problem;

    People who comply experience undue hardship, yet the problem allegedly justifying that hardship remains unsolved, possibly even unaffected.

    Is it, as some say, just a vulgar display of power to demand that you should strip for and be fondled by uniformed agents, or that you should see an FBI logo any time you try to watch a movie?

  27. I’m confused at the assetion in the news story that the TSA are on the “front line” of the war on terror. The front line is where stuff actually happens- which means the middle east, or Sweden. The TSA are so far back (and so apparently useless) that it’s like saying the Queen’s corgis are the head of her security.

  28. Sadly, the most cost effective method of preventing further terrorist attacks won’t even be considered by most Americans, because most simply aren’t willing to look at the factors that contribute to terrorism, much less consider the motivations of the attackers. Many Americans, especially conservatives, are especially unwilling to consider the possibility that America may have made mistakes as a nation that that have contributed to terrorism. It’s considered “un-American” to question our foreign policy (despite how American it is to question everything else our government does). So, unfortunately, the fact that so many of our foreign policy initiatives are significantly more un-American will unfortunately be lost on the average voter.

  29. u can make it secure, no luggage allowed, all passengers must pass strip search (can put all the sex crime prisoners to good use), u get xrayed, backscattered, mri, cold – anti bio shower to avoid contaminations, blood test, psychological test and a local operation to make sure u didnt hide anything inside ur stomach, next to ur kidneys.

  30. Not as lucky as a passenger in Tokyo who got randomly selected to test out the drug detection dogs at Narita airport. They put 142g of weed in the guys bag and then proceeded to lose track of him. Lucky for them the guy called the cops when he got to his hotel and found it in his bag. I can’t be assed finding a link for it but it also happened back in 2007, but that time the guy didn’t return it to the cops.


    1) Why did they put 142g of it in the bag? Surely a smaller amount would be more ideal for testing the dogs’ effectiveness.

    2) Why in a metal box? They should at least try to match the methods commonly employed by traffickers to conceal their stuff.

    3) How do you lose track of a guy in an airport?

    4) How is 142g worth 1 million JPY (approx $10,000)? The cops are getting ripped off if they think 7000 yen a gram is the going rate. Maybe in Roppongi, but anywhere else it should be 6000 or less. And if you buy in bulk the cost would be massively reduced. I think the way “street value” of drugs is calculated is massively misleading – it assumes a per gram price for every single gram, irrespective of how large the haul is – just to make the cops look like they’re effective.

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